When Kathleen Edwards got the call from the defence department inviting her to Afghanistan she had been on the road for most of a year.

She was in the middle of a California tour, tired and looking forward to Christmas at home with family and friends.

But it didn’t take her long to answer “yes.” The Ottawa-born singer-songwriter had been fascinated by the war torn country ever since reading The Kite Runner.

She arrived in Kabul Dec. 22 for a week long stay aboard a DND Hercules transport. The purpose was to entertain the troops over Christmas, but it proved to be much more.

“It was a life-changing trip,” Edwards say from her home in Hamilton, where she’s lived for more than three years. “I have a whole different outlook and understanding of what people in the military do and the commitment they make, the sacrifices they go through.”

Edwards performed every day she was in Afghanistan. The highlight of the week-long trip was a Christmas Eve show at Kandahar Airfield for a combined NATO contingent of Dutch, French and Canadian armed forces.

During her stay, Edwards also visited Kabul, some forward operating bases and a provincial reconstruction site where she got to meet some of the local population. She saw poverty and distress, but she also saw the good that Canadian forces were accomplishing, especially in the area of human rights.

“I thought about the fact that if I had have been in Afghanistan seven years ago,” Edwards says. “I would have been arrested and shot for what I do and who I am, just for having a guitar. It’s a pretty significant thing to think about.”

The Afghan trip capped a whirlwind year that began with the release of her critically acclaimed third album, Asking For Flowers. The CD is up for Adult Alternative Album of the Year at next month’s Juno Awards in Vancouver.

“I put out the record that I wanted to put out,” she says. “I’ve seen my fan base grow, which is an amazing feeling because I don’t feel like I made a very commercial album.”

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